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Article originally appeared in the Sierra Madre Weekly on August 7, 2014.

By Katherine Hill
Sierra Madre

Bean Town is a well-known popular and familiar gathering place for coffee – as well as conversation. It is said that there are no strangers there. Therefore, it was no surprise last week when a woman I didn’t know asked me what a CASA was. I suppose I looked puzzled, but she pointed to my CASA badge. Always happy to explain what I do, we sat down and I answered her questions. Later she suggested that more people in Sierra Madre would be interested in our program.

I explained that CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate – that I am one of 500 volunteers who represent one of the 28,000 foster children in Los Angeles County. It’s my mission to be the voice of a foster child, to advocate in his/her best interest. and to focus on one child and the child’s particular needs.

Being a CASA has been a rewarding personal experience. I’ll never forget my first case – a little girl who had been in foster care for several years. I was able to help get the eye surgery she needed and support her through her recovery. Most memorable were the times we shared – her first ballet performance at Christmas when she was so excited she could hardly remain in her seat, the first time I took her to a restaurant that had “real tablecloths”, visits to University of California for a Saturday tutoring program. While on campus, she was invited to explored the classrooms and girl’s dorms. As her CASA, I felt I was opening new worlds for her, showing her possibilities she did not even know existed. She enriched my life in a way I never expected. It allows me to be part of a solution to help change the lives of children, one by one. I strongly believe that society has an obligation to see that our foster children thrive and become educated and successful adults.

Our non-profit organization is in need of volunteers who will give their time to help our foster children. The challenges facing these children can be overwhelming without the personal guidance a CASA can provide. Children who become lost in our system are more likely to end up homeless, jobless, addicted or incarcerated. Our Los Angeles County foster care system is over-burdened and we need your help.

I encouraged this woman, who turned out to live only a block from me, to come to an in-formation session to find out more about what we do and how we are trained. As it turns out, she is going to come with me next week to hear more about this necessary and fascinating program!

Please visit www.casala.org for more information. As we are a nonprofit organization, totally dependent on donations, contributions are very gratefully accepted. Our children need you!